When I first discovered my gluten intolerance, one of my first concerns was what I was going to do about tortillas. We make a lot of Mexican cuisine in our house and tortillas are such an important staple. Because I’d obtained a perfect wheat flour tortilla recipe from a friend, I’d been making my own tortillas for months prior. I assumed that I could just substitute some gluten-free all purpose flour and everything would be just as it was. I was wrong. The gluten-free all-purpose flour in place of wheat flour left me with too-thick, dried-out tortillas that were hardly appetizing.
Not long after, I purchased Trader Joe’s brown rice tortillas, hopeful that they would instead do the trick. Whomever came up with the description that an item “tasted like cardboard” surely had tried Trader Joe’s brown rice tortillas. Not only did they taste the way I imagined cardboard to taste, they had the same horrific texture.
With a few clicks of the mouse, I found a recipe for white rice flour tortillas that incorporated tapioca starch. The recipe author claimed that the tapioca starch, along with the xanthan gum, was a must because it made the tortillas chewy and foldable.
What the author didn’t mention was that the dough was sticky. So sticky, in fact, that any attempts to roll out the tortillas resulted in tortilla dough that stuck to the counter and ripped when lifting off the counter. Once they found their way to the pan for cooking, the tortillas looked like nothing more than a sad, shredded lump. My choices were either: (A) roll the tortillas thin enough to be big enough but have shredded tortillas as a final product; or (B) keep the tortillas in one piece, however leaving them thicker and smaller – more like mini tortillas.
Neither option suited my purposes, nor was either option practical.
Ever full of faith in me, J was convinced I’d eventually nail the perfect gluten-free flour tortilla. It wasn’t a mission simply of desire. I had to nail this. We’d both sooner give up breathing than give up enchiladas, wraps and quesadillas.
After work one day this week, on a day as rainy as any other, I did a little brainstorming. My original wheat flour tortilla recipe was absolutely perfect. Delicious flour tortilla flavour, bendable, soft, large in size and tasted fresh and straight out of Mexico. On the other hand, the gluten-free white rice flour tortilla recipe was all of those things except in size and texture. What if I could combine the two recipes to make something that – fingers crossed – might just turn out perfectly? What I came up with astonished me. They might just astonish you, and your taste buds, too.
This recipe yields about eight very versatile tortillas and you wouldn’t even guess they’re gluten-free. Follow the recipe closely for the best results. It should take you about 30 minutes from start to finish (and less time once you’ve got the hang of it).
- 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill all purpose gluten-free flour
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup ice cold water (plus more as necessary)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup tapioca flour (not tapioca starch) for kneading and rolling
1. Combine all purpose gluten-free flour, tapioca starch, white sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt in a bowl; whisk well.
2. Using a pastry cutter, cut in vegetable shortening until all the shortening is very small – there should be no chunky pieces left.
3. Drizzle 1/2 cup of ice water over the mixture and mix either by hand or with the dough hook of a stand mixer. The dough will probably still be dry, so add more ice water as necessary, starting with just a tablespoon or two at a time. You don’t want to add too much water. Your dough should be moist like pie crust dough but should not be wet.
4. Sprinkle a bit of tapioca flour onto the countertop and knead the dough for a minute or two. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and set aside.
5. Heat a non-stick pan on medium – high heat; oil with a tablespoon of olive oil. I would strongly suggest using a cast iron pan for best results. Place a dinner plate and clean tea towel near the stovetop – you’ll be placing your cooked tortillas inside the tea towel to keep them warm until serving.
6. Unwrap the tortilla dough and divide into eight equal pieces. Sprinkle a generous amount of tapioca flour on the countertop and on your rolling pin and roll out one piece of dough, flipping often to avoid the tortilla from sticking. In all my attempts at making gluten-free tortillas, I’ve found tapioca flour to be the very best flour in which to roll out the tortilla dough. It’s virtually a non-stick flour!
7. Gently place the rolled-out tortilla dough in the pan and watch it carefully. These tortillas can cook in as quickly as 45 seconds on each side. You’ll know when it’s time to flip when air bubble form on the top side of the tortilla. Once cooked, place inside the tea towel.
8. Repeat with remaining portions of tortilla dough.
If you need more than eight tortillas, this recipe doubles nicely!
Remember: everything in the kitchen is trial and error – even if you’ve made a particular dish ten dozen times. Unless you’re using a tortilla press, these tortillas won’t come out perfectly round and photo-worthy. Don’t let this recipe intimidate you. It might seem tricky at first but it’s really a very simple way to get fresh, soft, delicious tortillas.